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Last reviewed/updated
1 October 2008

Melamine-contamination event, China, September 2008

Melamine and Cyanuric acid: Toxicity, Preliminary Risk Assessment and Guidance on Levels in Food

Full information [pdf 70kb]

25 September 2008

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Description of the event

More than 54 000 infants and young children have sought treatment for urinary problems, possible renal tube blockages and possible kidney stones related to the melamine contamination of infant formula and related dairy products. Three deaths among infants have been confirmed, more than 14 000 infants have been hospitalized and a little less than 13 000 remain so. Kidney stones in infants are very rare.

While the exact onset date of illness resulting from contamination and the beginning of the contamination itself remain unknown, a manufacturer (Sanlu) received a complaint of illness in March 2008.

Melamine: Analytical Methods [pdf 175kb]

Chinese media reported at the beginning of September that Sanlu brand infant formula produced by Hebei-based Sanlu Group was contaminated with melamine. Sanlu's powdered infant formula is widely consumed by infants across China because the product is relatively affordable compared to others.

Following inspections conducted by China’s national inspection agency, at least 22 dairy manufacturers across the country were found to have melamine in some of their products.

Two companies, Guangdong Yashili and Qingdao Suokang, exported their products to Bangladesh, Burundi, Myanmar, Gabon and Yemen. While contamination in those exported products remains unconfirmed, a recall has been ordered from China.

Other countries, however, have also reported finding melamine in dairy products manufactured in China.

So far, contamination has also been found in liquid milk, frozen yogurt dessert and in coffee drink. All these products were most probably manufactured using ingredients made from melamine contaminated milk.

In 2007, melamine was found in pet feed manufactured in China and exported to the United States of America, and caused the death of a large number of dogs and cats due to kidney failure.

Melamine-contamination event, China, September 2008: 1,2,3,4,5 | Melamine contamination